Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson, White Privilege & My Sons

(from original post) I was going to title this post "White Privilege" but I thought it might be too aggressive... (I don't know exactly why, but I'll go with my gut feeling for now). I decided to add it to the title and also to provide a link to this MUST READ summary essay from 1990: "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. I knew of this article from Dawn, who linked to it a long time ago, but I had half-forgotten about it. 

What can I say regarding the fact that the Grand Jury in Ferguson, MO decided not to indict the policeman who killed Michael Brown, except to lament that racial inequalities and injustices in this country are too blatant and overwhelming to be ignored? I was very upset with the acquittal of the murderer of Trayvon Martin as well.

What can I say but to acknowledge my white privilege?

I am very thankful that my experiences as an immigrant, an outsider, a foreigner have meant so much to my African-American friends over the years (particularly my friend Sharron in Massachusetts) that they confided in me and felt that I understood them because I knew the feeling of "otherness" first hand. But still, I have an undeniable privilege because of the lighter color of my skin.

This shouldn't be the case, but it is. This is the country and the world we live in and I feel outraged by it. And saddened and sorry. I'm trying my best to instill a passion against these injustices in my sons who are "the cream of the crop" in terms of privilege -- white boys, someday white men, American born.

First, I strive to have them identify themselves as wholly Brazilian (in spite of their birthplace) and therefore different. I know that however little, a sense of displacement and otherness will be extremely beneficial to them. I tell them they're Brazilian, I speak Portuguese with them loudly in public and at their school (and yes, I have had annoying older people around complain under their breath and say something to the effect that "this is America"), I wish I could take them to Brazil every year, but that's not possible.

Second, I tell them the stories of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in a simple, non-sensational language (since they don't watch or read the news) and their indignation and outrage ("Why mom? Why were they killed?") is part of their learning experience. And I talk to them about their African-American, Hispanic and darker-skinned classmates and explain that unfortunately people probably won't treat them the same as they grow up.

I am immensely thankful that in the four years we've lived here our church and our school have experienced an incredible "diversifying" wave, because my first thought when entering the church back in June 2010 was "this place is so overwhelmingly white!" :-( Now each of my sons has several African-American classmates when originally they had one (in K's case) and none (in L's case) back in 2010 in addition to several Hispanic and some Asian (Korean).

I'm sure that what I'm doing is far from what could be done (like most things in parenting!), but I hope I'm planting "seeds" in my boys' hearts so they can grow up to actively fight against racial inequalities while recognizing their immense white privilege. I can only hope I'm moving in the right direction.

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